In my previous post I mentioned that yesterday was the first preaching Sunday for Pastor Jay Hartley of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), my current home church congregation. The past several months, while Pastor Jay has been on sabbatical, the "senior" pastor has been, in effect, Michael Lehman. He's still a student (MDiv) at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He actually preached only twice since I began attending the church. ECC has plenty of other folk capable of filling the pulpit for a Sunday. These include an intern, Steven Gower, also a Disciples student at VDS, and a hospice chaplain and Belmont University religion professor, Gene Lovelace, who teaches the Sunday School I attend.
As I mentioned, Michael has only preached twice in my Sundays at the church. The last of the two was Sunday the Ninth, with Pastor Jay sitting in the congregation (his official first day back at work being Monday). Michael gave a simply marvelous message that opened the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). So I was thinking that Pastor Jay had a "hard act to follow" in getting back into the pulpit yesterday. But I said nothing to him, not wishing to put pressure on him.
Well, Pastor Jay's message, "Leaving Solitude", using Matthew 16:14-16 as text, was itself simply marvelous! He shared some of what he went thru on his sabbatical. This had two major phases to it, a visit to a monastery in Kentucky to explore the spiritual life, and a visit to the Holy Land and Egypt. Lucky dog! In the sermon he focused on the first phase, the monastery visit, and how it enriched his understanding of the spiritual or contemplative life, and of its integral relationship with daily living in this humdrum, out-of-kilter world. I felt as blessed by Pastor Jay today as I'd felt blessed by Michael's sermon a week earlier!
But that was just ONE element in a truly AWESOME Sunday worship at ECC! Choir director Julie Duemler gave the children's time message, which was about the exciting beauty of autumn-colored trees and other joys of God's creation that we can miss if we hurry along in living. There were not one but two special songs, one a vocal and guitar duet to conclude Pastor Jay's sermon -- it was an Amy Grant song unfamiliar to me but that the pastor felt summarized what he was seeking to get across -- and then during the offertory a song "Jeremiah" performed by a quartet that included young Michael Lehman on percussion (conga) and the same lovely vocal as on the duet: Dieta Duncan.
The choir's own anthem was a gorgeous song of praise, "Look at the World", with sections for women's voices, sections for men's voices and four-part harmonious refrains. I'd loved it from the first time we practiced it. But when we actually sang it during the worship I almost felt lifted up off the floor by the glorious sounds!
Praise be to God our Creator and Daddy indeed! Hallelujah!